File No. 763.72112/962
The Secretary of State to Mr. Alvin Untermyer
Sir: The Department acknowledges the receipt of your letter of the 25th ultimo1 in which, in further relation to your desire to be advised whether the Declaration of London constituted “at the time of the commencement of the recent conflict in Europe a binding treaty or agreement between Great Britain and the United States,” you inquire “(1) Does our government recognize as valid the declaration by Great Britain of copper as absolute contraband; and (2) must my client, before shipping the copper referred to, determine at his peril that it is not intended for reexport from Norway to Germany—in other words, is my client obligated to prove that the copper is not intended for reexport, or is Great Britain obligated to prove that it is intended for reexport in order to justify a seizure or condemnation?”
After giving the matter careful consideration the Department has decided that it is not in a position to make any objection to the classification of copper by the British Government as absolute contraband.
The British Government adheres to the so-called “doctrine of continuous voyages” laid down by the American courts during the Civil War; that is, they regard as subject to condemnation shipments of articles classed as contraband if such articles are destined ultimately for delivery in belligerent territory even though they may, in the first instance, be shipped from a neutral port to a neutral port or landing. With reference to this matter the Department may refer you to Moore’s International Law Digest, volume vii, pages 697 et seq., and Oppenheim, International Law (second edition) volume ii pages 500 et seq.[Page 184]
That portion of your second inquiry concerning the proof of destination of goods appears to relate to matters of procedure before prize courts in relation to which it is not within the province of the Department to advise you. As of possible bearing on your inquiry, the Department may refer you to the copy of the British order in council of October 29 last, which was sent to you with the Department’s letter of March 16 last.
The Department regrets that through inadvertence a reply to your letter has been delayed.
I am [etc.]
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